New McNair Scholars Named at Washington State University

PULLMAN, Wash. — New Ronald E. McNair Post-baccalaureate Achievement
Program Scholars at Washington State University have been named.

They include Jose Esparza, comparative American cultures; Maria Gonzales,
education; Sokum Meng, management information systems; Amber Vargas,
English and Spanish; and Debra Ponds, Neuroscience.

The scholars take part in seminars and workshops throughout the year on
topics related to graduate school preparation. Those completing a summer
research project under the guidance of a WSU faculty mentor receive a
stipend. Scholars have opportunities to present their research findings at local,
regional or national conferences.

McNair Scholars are current WSU juniors and seniors. The program
encourages and prepares low-income, first-generation college students or
those of African American, Chicano/Latino or Native American heritage to go
on to graduate school and earn doctoral degrees, said Nancy Schmidt,
coordinator of the WSU graduate school program funded by a five-year
$203,000-a-year federal grant.

This is the second year of the program, which involves about 3,000 students
across the U.S., said Steven Burkett, graduate school associate dean, who is
also the program director.

This summer, 15 McNair Scholars took part in an eight-week summer research
project that included working closely with a faculty mentor, and attending
workshops on research writing, presentations and statistics. In July, the
scholars’ work was presented at the first McNair Scholar Summer Research
Symposium. Fifteen scholars gave oral and poster presentations to students,
faculty and staff. Abstracts of the presentations can be viewed on the Web at

The McNair Program is seeking juniors to start with the program this coming
spring, along with sophomores who will be juniors in fall 2001.

Program information and application forms are available from the WSU McNair
Program, Lighty Student Services Building, Room 190, or the WSU Graduate
School, French Administration Building, Room 324. Information is also
available from the McNair Web site,, from which an
application form may be downloaded. Schmidt may be reached at 509/335-7702.

The program is named for Ronald E. McNair, an astronaut who died in the 1986
space shuttle Challenger explosion. An African American, McNair’s
background included earning a physics doctoral degree.